DID NOT REPORT IT, BUT FILED FOR PARISH’S SEAT INSTEAD
Rob Edwardson, who filed for the House District 34 seat occupied by Juneau’s Rep. Justin Parish, knew Parish was a harasser of women.
The harassment of a woman who was a Juneau-based reporter had gone on for months, and was well-known in political circles in Juneau. House leadership knew. The media knew. Even Bruce Botelho, the Democrat who had brought Parish to the House by smearing the name of Rep. Cathy Munoz, knew.
But Edwardson, the loyal aide to Parish, never reported it. And no one else did either.
Instead, Edwardson took a job with Parish and worked for him for the past 18 months. He also ran for the Juneau Assembly and won.
He took required sexual harassment training that Rules Chair Gabrielle LeDoux had demanded of all staff and House members, and still kept his head down, not willing to report on his boss.
Then, in what appears to be an orchestrated effort, Edwardson today filed for Parish’s seat when it became clear that Parish could not run again.
The gig was up when the Juneau Empire, which had known about the story for months, published the sordid tale a few hours after Parish announced he wasn’t running.
SPEAKER BRYCE EDGMON KNEW, TOO
And yet another person in power knew about Justin Parish’s proclivities: Speaker Bryce Edgmon.
Edgmon has had two other members of the Democrat majority resign in disgrace this year: Rep. Dean Westlake was forced to resign in January after being accused of harassing women. Rep. Zach Fansler was forced to resign in February after being accused of striking a woman on the face after a night of drinking.
Speaker Edgmon ultimately requested both their resignations, but did so belatedly, reluctantly and with deep compliments for his perpetrating colleagues.
It wasn’t until Dec. 8, 2017 that Edgmon called on Westlake to resign, even though the accusations against him were nearly a year old.
The only reason Edgmon finally took action on Westlake is that one of the women blew the story up on a Facebook Livestream, and hundreds heard her story.
“We take very seriously our obligation to ensure everyone who works in the Capitol feels safe and respected. Members of the Alaska House Majority Coalition Leadership understand that it is difficult for victims to speak out, especially against elected officials in a position of power and commend anyone who has been mistreated for coming forward; they are owed justice and respect. In light of recent reports of inappropriate behavior related to his position in the Legislature, House Leadership believes Representative Dean Westlake should resign from the office his constituents sent him to Juneau to represent. This is an extremely difficult decision to make, but it is a necessary decision.” – Speaker Bryce Edgmon, Dec. 8, 2017.
Westlake was replaced through the appointment process by John Lincoln of Kotzebue.
But it got worse for Edgmon. His new freshman Democrats were bad boys to the bone.
In January, the hard-drinking Rep. Fansler was the subject of a police complaint. It was impossible to cover it up. Again, Edgmon spoke glowingly of his colleague Fansler, even while asking him to resign:
“Calling for Rep. Fansler’s resignation was the right thing to do given the severity of his alleged actions, but that does not mean that it was an easy thing to do because Zach was a committed and effective legislator for the people of House District 38. I also considered him a valuable member of our Coalition,” said Speaker Edgmon in February. “The circumstances that warranted Rep. Fansler’s resignation were unfortunate and show the problems in our state with domestic violence and alcohol abuse. I want to thank Rep. Fansler for his service. I also want to thank all of the victims who have braved so much in coming forward. We can all take heart in their bravery.”
Rep. Fansler represented District 38. He was replaced through the appointment process by Tiffany Zulkolsky, a former aide to former Sen. Mark Begich.
REP. CHRIS TUCK KNEW TOO
And yet, Parish was still a problem. The leadership of the Democrat-led House majority, including majority leader Chris Tuck of Anchorage, also has known about Rep. Parish’s sexual harassment habits and yet has done nothing.
In spite of that knowledge, when Fansler resigned just weeks ago Tuck had the temerity to say, “Our Coalition has shown a steadfast resolve to hold our members to the highest standards of conduct because that’s what the people of Alaska expect from their elected representatives. While Representative Fansler was well liked and respected, his actions were counter to our shared values. We felt the decisive action of calling for his resignation had to be taken to maintain the public trust. We are all accountable to the people of Alaska, and I want to thank Rep. Fansler for stepping up and being accountable to the people of his district.”
Since then, the Democratic coalition required sexual harassment training of all of its members and staff. The training includes the guidance that all members and staff are required to report incidences of harassment. That means Parish, Edwardson and the entire House leadership have had the training and signed a document acknowledging their responsibility to report.
The question of the hour in Juneau is: The other two Democrats accused of sexual improprieties had to resign in disgrace. What’s so special about Justin Parish? Why isn’t Bryce Edgmon calling for his resignation? What exactly was so much worse about what Dean Westlake did than what Parish did?
Indeed, how many Juneau Democrats were aware of Justin Parish’s problems and yet hid them for a year or more? The answer is plenty.
Hayes Research, a Democratic polling firm, conducted a poll in recent weeks asking Juneau voters if they’d vote for Rob Edwardson or Jerry Nankervis for the House District 34 seat.
Hayes would not have done that poll had the Democrats not known they were facing yet another crisis with their men folk.
As Justin Parish wrote in the Juneau Empire on Aug. 28, 2016: “Sadly, it has come to light this week that the Legislature is even more broken than many of us had imagined. Our Republican Representative, Cathy Muñoz, has demonstrated where her values are. Her misplaced priorities and demonstrably poor judgment are emblematic of the failure of leadership in the Legislature.”
One Juneau pundit said that the words “Cathy Munoz” need to be replaced with “Justin Parish,” which would make the statement accurate.